Justin Onderko was born in Somerville, NJ and moved to Pennsylvania when he was five. At nine Justin was introduced to speed skating by his father. Onderko not only enjoyed it, but found that he was talented at it as well. At twelve Justin Onderko went to the Junior Olympic Nationals and placed 4th. Justin competed nationally and won a host of medals. After conquering speed skating, Onderko expressed an interest in racing.
Researching some of the different venues available for Justin to pursue his racing career, Onderko started with karts. Justin had always been taught the more you know about something, the better your chances are at being good at it. With the help of his father and a friend, Justin raced and continued learning all he could. With the backing of a few small sponsors Onderko did well, but the sponsorship was not enough. Struggling because of the lack of funds, Justin used his remaining free time working for a private tennis club to help his team along.
Onderko was busy with his academics, working and racing. As high school approached, Justin had the continual support of his parents allowing him to choose the direction that he wanted to pursue. Onderko was told if he wanted something bad enough, he would find a way to make it happen.
After making the decision to go racing on a bigger scale, Justin was able to purchase a car. “I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, though I thought I was going to be the next Jeff Gordon” laughed Onderko recalling that time. “I absolutely destroyed the car in my first race. Three laps was all I was able to run. Needless to say I was disappointed, but I believe that it was crucial that it happened. That race taught me a multitude of things. Besides the fact that it costs a tremendous amount of money to fix stupidity, it forced me to learn about every aspect of racing.”
Onderko knew that although he had his parent’s support, if he wanted to race it was on his shoulders. At nineteen Justin had his own shop, tools, truck, trailer and his dream of racing.
“The longer we raced the more we learned, and the better we got.” Onderko was able to win a race in his first full year and finished fourth in points. The following season Onderko earned another win and took second in points.
“We finished out the year with a win and took second in points. I felt that I had to make a move to somewhere other than a local track. I thought I would give ARCA a try. I went to work for Gerhart and bought one of his short track cars. I was very fortunate to have worked for him when he was dealing with Hendrick Motorsports. I have a saying, “that you don’t even know that you don’t know”, that I have adopted from Bobby Gerhart. That was me in a nut shell. The way I prepared my cars was not even in the ballpark of where they should have been. The only positive aspect was that I was competitive in a car that was not properly setup.”
The 2009 season was Justin’s first in late models. It was again, a tough road. Not having anyone on the team with any real experience with these cars to turn to, the team struggled. “We ran good, I mean, we led laps and won a couple heat races, but these teams don’t mess around.” With a budget that was probably a quarter of his competition, most would be happy with the success he had. Justin is not most people, “Even though I was making headway, it was very frustrating. I would go to work all day and then go to the shop till late, it was taking its toll.” Then came the breaking point for the 2009 season, Justin broke the drive line in his #31 late model- effectively ending his 2009 season.
Though down, Justin never stays out for very long. With some help, Justin got back on track for the last 3 races of the season, and was able to post top 5’s in 2 of them. Justin over came some pretty big hurdles in 2009, and as they say ‘It’s always darkest before dawn’. Well, “dawn” came in the form of Joe Polny and Tiffany Harmon. They offered Justin the #58 seat for the 2010 season, stating that they wanted to run for the late model championship.
All of the hard work was looking like it was going to pay off in the 2010 season, but with 4 or 5 teams that could win on any given night nothing is going to be a lock. One thing is for sure- Justin will make the most of this opportunity, and staying true to his motto- “There is always someone who can do it better than you, Learn from that person, ask questions and stay humble” he will work just as hard as before.
1997- WKA Kart Racing
8 Starts- 5 Top 5’s
1998- WKA Kart Racing
23 Starts- 6 wins- 17 Top 5’s- 2nd Place MCGP Point Standings
1999- WKA Kart Racing
36 Starts- 7 wins- 24 Top 5’s- 3rd Place Sandy Hook Speedway Points- 4th Place MCGP Points
2000- WKA Kart Racing
21 Starts- 2 wins- 12 Top 5’s- 5th Place Pavement Divisional Points
2001- Preparing for move to Full Bodied Cars
2002- Pro-Stock Racing
6 Starts- 2 Top 5’s
2003- Pro-Stock Racing
27 Starts- 1 win- 12 Top 5’s- 4th Place Mountain Speedway Points- Rookie of the Year
2004- Pro-Stock Racing
28 Starts- 1 win- 21 Top 5’s- 2nd Place Mountain Speedway Points
Hired by Bobby Gerhart Racing- crew responsibilities
Preparing for Late Model racing
2009- Late Model Racing
12 Starts- 2 Top 5’s
2010- Late Model Racing
14 Starts- 2 wins- 10 Top 5’s- 2010 SVS Late Model Champion- Hard Charger
2011 – Bertil Roos Racing Series and Advanced Racing School
2 starts: 2 Podium finishes
2012 – National Auto Sport Association – Pro Challenge/Performance Touring – A
5 starts – 5 wins
2012 Northeast Regional Champion
2012 Mid-Atlantic Regional Champion